If I start back at the beginning – back to high school Kelli – I was a teenager that did not obsess over marriage and having babies.
I was pretty convinced that I was not the maternal type. When a new baby made its way into the world in my family, my cousins would often ooh and ahh over the baby, while I stood back dreaming of what my life would look like in the future (it was always writing for a major publication. I’ve had dreams of being a writer my whole life.) I definitely never envisioned kids in that future. Fast forward a decade later to getting married, enjoying just the two of us for a few years, then deciding okay, why not, let’s give this parenthood thing a try.
When you first meet your own baby, it’s a totally different experience altogether.
I mean, you know that you love them before you meet them, but seeing that tiny writhing pink and wrinkly body for the first time is an experience that you never truly understand until you are there in that room staring at their tiny toes and fingers and thinking, “Is this real life?” It is like someone took a part of your heart and stuck it permanently outside of your body.
How would you nurture this tiny infant? How would you take care of another human being?
Becoming a new mother brings up a great deal of emotion and stressors that your pre-baby life didn’t even know existed. From those early days getting home from the hospital and realizing, “I have no idea what I’m doing” to “They let me actually take this child home with me?” to late night breastfeeding sessions, diaper changes, and 3AM sessions in the rocking chair that seem like a distant foggy dream. No-one tells you how difficult those first few months are, and how you have to find it within yourself to find a coping level that allows you to function somewhat normally.
Because you have to – your employer only gave you six weeks to be home with your newborn baby. You have to return to work with this human being that is now a part of your heart living outside of your body – and a flood of emotions comes storming in.
I know I was not prepared for any of the things that came along with birthing a baby, the first few months which seem like a blur – literally please don’t ask me to remember details from this time. It seems like a foggy memory that possibly did or did not happen.
The Struggle With Being “On” 24/7
One of the things I’ve struggled with from the beginning of my Motherhood journey has been the feeling of being “on” all of the time.
As an introvert and someone who truly values alone time, this whole motherhood experience seems like one huge party that never stops (and literally ends up being a party at 3am a lot of nights!) Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love my daughter and she brings so much joy to our lives but I did really struggle with finding a way to cope with being “on” 24/7 as a new mom.
I didn’t take the proper time to care for myself from the start, and while I do regret that decision, I now make it one of my main messages to other new moms that they absolutely need to prioritize themselves after becoming moms.
My Struggle With PMDD
Another struggle I’ve had to cope with is PMDD. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a condition some women experience that is sometimes heightened after bearing children with all of the hormone changes that occur. I knew I had PMDD prior to having my daughter, but it was certainly severely heightened afterwards.
The definition of PMDD is, “Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome that includes physical and behavioral symptoms that usually resolve with the onset of menstruation. PMDD causes extreme mood shifts that can disrupt work and damage relationships. Symptoms include extreme sadness, hopelessness, irritability, or anger, plus common premenstrual syndrome symptoms such as breast tenderness and bloating.”
My PMDD subsided during pregnancy and while I was breastfeeding my daughter (probably because my periods entirely went away for those 9+18 months), but after we weaned it grew to a state I was quite literally afraid of. Sometimes I would glance at myself in the mirror and not recognize the person staring back at me. If you are familiar with PMDD you know that it can be a sometimes debilitating state that lasts anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. My episodes would typically last up to 4-5 days.
They would occur about halfway through my menstrual cycle and it truly felt like a demon, someone that was not me at all, took over my mind and body. I was not myself for those few days. I distinctly remember feeling like I was looking in on someone else’s life during that time. Once my period would start, I started feeling normal again, and the feelings of anger, hopelessness, depression, anxiety would subside. Kelli had returned.
New Motherhood is hard: really hard.
When you are struggling with something like PMDD it elevates your anger response to even small things that would not normally make you angry. My husband unfortunately bore the brunt of that anger. It took around one and a half years for me to realize that the PMDD was made worse by poor exercise habits and unhealthy eating choices. So right after my daughter’s 3rd birthday I made a promise that I absolutely needed to start taking care of myself as a woman, first, before I could take care of others.
I’ve been able to battle the PMDD monster with regular exercise, yoga, meditation, journaling, a healthy diet and limiting alcohol consumption around the time I know it is going to occur. If I skip my workouts or yoga sessions, and I feel PMDD is coming on, I do not feel like the best version of myself. It typically ends up in a self-deprecating episode of shame and guilt. I try so hard not to get to that state anymore.
It takes every ounce of energy in me sometimes to get on that bike, or turn on that yoga session on YouTube when I feel the intense feelings of sometimes hopelessness, depression, and fatigue, all telltale signs that PMDD is rearing its ugly head again. But I know that if I stick to my plan that I can fight the PMDD monster and end up in a calmer state and better able to take care of my daughter. I am a better mom when I take care of myself first.
This is something no-one tells you at the baby shower. It’s something people do not want to discuss because it’s uncomfortable to talk about women’s bodies and mental health and how it sometimes ties together. But I would like to share this story in hopes that it can reach someone else that is struggling and to know you are not alone. I have come to accept my limitations as a mother, and at the same time have found coping mechanisms that make me healthier and more in tune with my body and my emotions.
I’ve also realized there’s not a one-size fits all version of motherhood. Every experience is different, and each mother has her own unique story to share. It doesn’t make any one of us better than the other. We all struggle. We all have to cope with difficult situations and we’ve all found our coping mechanisms that make us even stronger women and mothers.
One thing is certain – We are not alone in this journey, and if you’re struggling with your own demons in motherhood, there are ways to not only cope but make you find hope and joy again. I got to some pretty dark places in my mind in the height of my PMDD episodes. But I realize now that holding it inside was not making it better. It actually made it worse not talking about and understanding that there was a better way to cope. I’ve actually come to find my motherhood identity by accepting my limitations and realizing motherhood is different for everyone. There is no such thing as “perfect motherhood,” and when we stop trying to find perfection is when we will find our own version of happiness and fulfilment in our own story.
- The Working Mom Collective
Bio: Kelli is a working, blogging iced-coffee loving mom living in the Midwest who believes that the key to finding a career and life you love is by listening to your inner voice and prioritizing your own needs so that you can get to the end of the day feeling a sense of calm and lightness. She believes that working moms should practice their non-negotiables daily in order to fill their own cup first before taking care of others. Kelli is also an advocate of building flexibility into your day so that you can have more time to do the things that bring you joy. She helps working moms like you ditch the burnout, overcome the overwhelm and build a working mom life that doesn’t stress you out or leave you depleted by the time the weekend rolls around. When not writing or working on her passion projects, she can be found sailing on Lake MIchigan with her husband and 4-year old daughter or reading a mix of personal development books and suspense novels.
Programs & Offers:
I have a 5-day free challenge for working moms to build a working mom non-negotiable routine. Sign up here: 5-day free challenge
I also launched my new business venture, Working Mama Virtual Solutions, in the midst of a pandemic! I offer social media management, content strategy + website building and consulting services for online entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Finally, I launched a podcast called “Confessions of a Working Mom,” and I am super excited about this new project! I’ve been talking to so many amazing moms about their ambitions, dreams and goals in working motherhood. My motto is “There is not a one-size fits all version of motherhood.” When we accept that, only then can we truly start to live the version of our lives that brings out our best selves as women and as mothers.
Business Site– Kelli Femrite